Lucretius (lucretius) wrote in lifestories,

A Family Story--II

My maternal Grandmother was a different kind.

She lived in a lumber camp much of her youth, in a tent with a dirt floor. When she got a few boards to put down over the mud, she felt she had moved up in the world considerably.

Her own grandmother had been a Cherokee Indian, but never mentioned it. It wasn't something you admitted, then.

She would have nine children, seven of them by her husband. My father would never forgive her for the other two. She never forgave anyone but her own children anything, that I know of.

Anecdote the First:

When my great-grandmother (my grandmother's mother-in-law) had gotten back up and decided to go on about the business of living, my grandmother (young then), helped her out.

When the menfolk went to St. Louis to sell the cattle for the year, they would stay sometimes for a month or more, whoring, drinking, gambling, and generally running through the money while the women stayed at home with the children, and tried to make ends meet. Times were leaner already.

On one occasion, they had not left enough household cash to feed the children. And so my great-grandmother was left with no money, no husband, and no way of getting in contact with either one. Weeks went by, as they made dandelion green salads, and excuses.

In the end, it was undoubtedly my Grandmother who had the idea.

When the men came home some weeks later, probably considerably hung-over, they went inside to find that there was no furniture in the house.

The women had sold it all to buy food.

The men had to buy every stick back from their neighbors, and their neighbors' wives. I expect it was a rather hard kind of bargain to make.

Anecdote the Second:

My great grandfather kept a full-time mistress on the side. I don't know anything much about her except that she wasn't the kind of woman who made preserves.

My great-grandmother and grandmother were the kinds of women who made preserves. All of those strange intricate native jellies and carefully-labeled jars of pickled and stewed vegetables, laid up for the lean times. It was a kind of group labor--an assembly-line of women-kin and trusted children during the seasons of plenty, when there was a surfeit of fruit. The quality of a woman's preserves were not entirely a point free of pride. It was the kind of thing that could be spoiled easily by any carelessness: the jars would explode.

My great-grandfather, grey-bearded by that time, and outwardly venerable, came one day to raid the cellar. My grandmother said he came to get food to give to his other woman. Of course, it's possible he just wanted home cooking in whatever second home he had set up. He was apparently not a man who understood or cared to understand why a woman would be offended at such a thing. He didn't understand preserves.

My grandmother gave him the preserves. With great force. By the end of it, he was routed, his fancy clothes covered with sweet things laid up for later, nursing a number of cuts and a fair assortment of bruises. I imagine him not only concussed, but a little bewildered, or pretending to be--like a bear covered with honey and unexpected stings. It must have been a long and sticky ride back to wherever he went.

They didn't speak for years, afterwards, but an understanding had been reached.

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